Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Health care reform must address disparities among children

Carolynm 07/24/09

Naelli at Heart Day
As we’ve blogged before
, all children deserve the same high-quality health care, but they aren’t getting it. A new report from First Focus confirms this, documenting continuing health disparities between white children and children of color and putting it into the context of health care reform. The report argues that health reform must be designed to reduce these disparities.

Children of color are less likely to be insured than white children. Latino and African-American children represent 57 percent of uninsured children, although they are only 37 percent of America’s child population.   Children of color also receive less and lower-quality care.

The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program has done a lot to shrink these disparities, and the report recommends that health care reform should include the measures in CHIP and Medicaid that account for this success. These include consumer protections, language services, standards for access to care and cultural competency, comprehensive benefits, and limited or no cost sharing.

The report also calls for automated enrollment and renewal and funding for outreach. This could go a long way toward reducing disparities, because children of color are disproportionately likely to be eligible for coverage yet uninsured: Two-thirds of all uninsured children are eligible for public coverage, but more than 80 percent of uninsured African-American children and 70 percent of uninsured Latino children are eligible, according to Families USA.

It’s touch and go right now whether these recommendations will be followed. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has offered an amendment to House health care legislation that would keep children in CHIP until benefits in the proposed insurance “exchanges” are shown to offer as good benefits for children. Stay tuned.

-By Carolyn McConnell
photo by Ruth Schubert